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Jul 21

July 21, 2020 TML Coronavirus Update #88

Posted on July 21, 2020 at 3:43 PM by TML Staff

Urgent Updates


How are committees of the Texas House of Representatives going to conduct interim hearings during the pandemic?


Didn’t you ask and answer this question yesterday (July 20)? Yep. We reported that the Speaker of the Texas House issued a memo to his committee chairs banning House committees from meeting virtually during the interim.


Later last night, however, one House committee – Land and Resource Management – issued a notice asking for written input on annexation reform and eminent domain law (including the “Landowner’s Bill of Rights”):


“Due to the ongoing pandemic and the uncertainty as to scheduling interim hearings, the Committee requests written submissions from interested parties and the public in regards to the assigned Interim Charges below.


All submissions are due on August 14, 2020, by 5pm (CST). Submissions should be submitted via email to the Chairman, Tom Craddick, at Tom.Craddick@House.Texas.Gov and shall be in word format.


Submissions should be no longer than five (5) pages in length for each charge. The page limit is inclusive of any photos, graphs, spreadsheets, charts, etc. the submitter chooses to include. Submissions shall include the submitter name, organization or entity (if applicable and an authorized representative), mailing address, email, and telephone number.


All submissions will be circulated to each Member of the Committee after the August 14, 2020 deadline. A copy of all received comments will be made available to the public by the Chairman.”


The League will, of course, be submitting written comments to the committee.


Has the League taken any action in relation to the attorney general opinion request regarding re-opening the filing period for the postponed city general elections?


Yes. The League filed comments on the request. State Representative Mayes Middleton asked the following in relation to city elections that were postponed from May until November due to the Coronavirus:


“First, if an eligible candidate seeks a place on the ballot for a May election moved to November, but has not filed previously, are they afforded an opportunity to do so? Second, can a jurisdiction deny them a place on the ballot if they now file within the statutorily prescribed timeframe, but did not previously do so?”


In response to Mr. Middleton’s request, TML urged the attorney general to give deference to the governor’s order, the Secretary of State Elections Division’s guidance, and a city’s continuity of government and interest in protection of the public fisc. In these unprecedented times, many cities took the extraordinary action to postpone their general election for officers from May to November. That action took place after the expiration of the period to file an application for a place on the ballot for the May election, and the Secretary of State’s Elections Division advised (and the governor presumably agreed) that, while the election itself was moved, the filing period for the election had already concluded.


The bottom line is that the governor has taken decisive and appropriate action to protect Texans’ voting rights and their safety, and he is supported by the state’s elections experts. The logistical, procedural, and financial problems that could be caused by an opinion to re-open the otherwise closed filing deadline cannot be overstated. Thus, the answers to the questions posed in RQ-0363-KP are, according to TML: (1) no; and (2) yes.


It is believed that the Attorney General may act quickly on the opinion request, so cities interested in filing their own comments should act this week.


Further Updates


Has the governor’s office issued additional virus-related public service announcements?


Yes, he issued a Spanish-language PSA today (July 21).


Where can I find archived issues of the TML Coronavirus Updates?


TML Coronavirus Updates are archived by date here and by subject here.